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Two Years On: Another Fuck You to Personal Budget Experts

February 17, 2018

I’m ground down. Ground down by Groundhog Day.

Two years ago, I got caught up in a deeply threatening battle with HMRC over the support workers’ tax and national insurance. I became quite ill with the fear that their increasingly menacing letters triggered in me. Here’s my blogpost from May 2016 on the subject. (The update at the bottom of the post is hugely significant to the current story):

Two years on, exactly the same thing is happening again. On 3rd February, I received a letter from HMRC Debt Management informing me that I owed £600+ for the financial year 2016/17. I know I don’t. I wrote them an immediate reply. Adopting a belt and braces approach due to my fear someone might spring a “We never received your letter” tactic, I phoned them on 6th February. I spent 55 minutes on the phone to a Debt Management officer who said that she was unable to check the figures or tell me how they had been worked out but she could assure me that her figures were correct. Eventually, I persuaded her to transfer me to someone in the Employers Helpline team. This conversation took 45 minutes. He could have been the same bloke I talked to back in 2016. He was adamant that the quarterly return I submitted for the third quarter was a monthly figure so they were justified in estimating a figure for the next three months and it is this estimate that makes up the “outstanding debt”. I lost count of the number of times I said to him that I submitted quarterly returns because HMRC sent me quarterly returns. In the end, and my voice shaking with a mix of anger and tears, I pleaded with him to put me through to someone in the Carers Team. Not many of the staff in HMRC know that a dedicated Carers team exist. He didn’t. I couldn’t take any more that day. After all, it had been nearly two hours and I had got nowhere.

The next day, I tried again. Another 40 minutes. “Sorry, we can’t put you through directly to the Carers Team. I can take your details and someone will call you back within 72 hours”. That’s the service level agreement. You have to sit with the stress for a further 72 hours.

Luckily, someone did phone me back the following afternoon and the relief was instant. She’d checked all my returns for the past three years and everything was up to date. Nothing outstanding to pay. Oh, and by the way, did I know about the Employers Allowance that was introduced in April 2015. Looking at my records I had never claimed it and in fact, we owe you £5000. “It may take a bit of time but you should receive a cheque for £5000 by the Spring”.

Today, I got back to Steven’s and there is another Saturday letter waiting for me. From the HMRC Debt Management team. It starts “We’re disappointed that you’ve failed to respond to our previous requests…..”It ends, “If you don’t pay now, we can enforce debts by seizing your assets and selling them by public auction as the law allows. We can charge you fees for this….”

All those calls. The letter. The energy, time and cost has counted for nothing. Back to square one.

This week I saw another of those Twitter conversations about the beauty of personal budgets. I don’t join in with them anymore. I get wound up by the way the “experts” turn the sort of situations I’ve described in this post into an academic debate. Or I get told that there’s nothing wrong with the theory of Personal Budgets, it’s the execution that causes the problems. As if that matters a toss.

I’ve typed a reply to today’s letter. I’m gearing myself up to spending another two hours on the phone on Monday. And I’m completely on edge. I know it will get sorted (In 2016, they sent me a cheque for £50 to apologise for the inconvenience). Until Monday, this will bite away at my brain.

Because I know that whatever positive response I get next week, that won’e be the end of it. It is more than likely that these letters will turn up once a fortnight until the Spring.

From → Uncategorized

  1. This is horrendous, I’m so sorry that you’re having to deal with it, Mark.

  2. Cathy B permalink

    So sorry to hear this – and not a tiny bit surprised, sadly. Time for your local MP to step in.

    Where is the BBC / Channel 4 investigative broadside on Personal Budgets? Where is the national outrage?

  3. This sot of thing is exactly why I could not cope with a personal budget.

  4. Lisa Eaden permalink

    I’d get your MP onto this for you

  5. kate permalink

    how is one man supposed to endure such a continued barrage of shit from all directions?

    but that seems to be the new management style in the world of adult social care and all the crap that goes with it….. ensure family carers are ground down, confused, misinformed, accused, fearful and beyond distress

  6. Sarah permalink

    So sorry about the awful time you’re having with this again. These appalling attitudes seem to permeate all government agencies nowadays (my current ongoing battles are with DWP). The stress of trying to deal with people who refuse to understand or accept what one tells them is soul destroying and the automatic assumption that everyone is attempting to gain something to which they are not entitled is very offensive.

  7. lisa permalink

    How fucking stressfully stressful. Youll sort it.

  8. Pauline Thomas permalink

    It is a complete farce. The HMRC are not fit for purpose. Their staff and different departments are clearly not reading from the same hymn sheet, and are definitely not joined up.

    Your dialogue with them could have come straight from the pens of the script writers behind the comedy ‘Little Britain.’ “The computer says no” Except Mark the reality is definitely not funny!

  9. weary mother permalink

    My son’s local authority managed to imply that direct payments were mandatory. Many/most people believed them. I refused.

    They also hired a large charity to provide brokerage, for a fee, for families who could not manage the payments and they hired same charity to provide the only advocacy support on offer. At best diluting all hope of independent advocacy..

    I refused both.

    This left the ‘Hobsons’ choice of LA support, from a cheapest contract agency – working on a shoe string. And at the same time LA washed their hands of any monitoring of the care the agency provided. And role of LA care manager was given to locums or care assistants with no clout – or visible experience in the role of care manager..

    This hideous combination of no choice and or influence to improve support – has been a nightmare.

    Hard won hours of support have lain unused for years from all these lacks in competence, roles and process.

    Leaving responsibilities, for core support plus all monitoring and advocacy – to family.

    Plus filling the vacuum in the nil supported access to health care because – was/is ‘no ones’ reponsibility..NHS or LA.

    Safeguarding..what safeguarding?

    Both are seriously flawed systems.. direct payment or LA contracted ..they both can kill the soul, ….and ..people ?

  10. I bin every letter that comes here from HMRC.

  11. LizzieD permalink

    It is obviously wrong to leave exhausted family carers to learn all about employment law and tax complexities. I opted to use a Payroll company, and let them sort out taxes – at a price, of course, but it is not huge, and out to be factored in as part of the COST of running a DP scheme.

    The lack of support, heavy handed supervision and just plain indifference to the things that matter is outrageous. I still preffer the element of choice, but it is very wearing. I think the tax people are even worse than the DWP when it comes to sorting out problems, andd it is news to me that they have a “carers” department. Trying to deal with them as a Deputy is even worse, as most of those on the end of the phone have no clue what that is.

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